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Three approaches for estimating the elastic modulus of the tympanic membrane

Journal of Biomechanics
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2004.08.022
  • Middle Ear
  • Tympanic Membrane
  • Eardrum
  • Parameter Estimation
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Displacement Measurements
  • Musicology
  • Physics


Abstract The function of the middle ear is to resolve the acoustic impedance mismatch between the air in the ear canal and the fluid of the inner ear. Without this impedance matching, very little acoustic energy would be absorbed into the cochlea. The first step in this process is the tympanic membrane (TM) converting sound in the ear canal into vibrations of the middle ear bones. Understanding how the TM manages its task so successfully over such a broad frequency range should lead to more satisfactory and less variable TM repairs (myringoplasty). In addition, understanding the mechanics of the TM is necessary to improve the coupling between ossicular prostheses and the TM. Mathematical models have played a central role in helping the research community understand the mechanics of the eardrum. However, all models require parameters as inputs. Unfortunately, most of the parameters needed for modeling the TM are not well known. In this work, several approaches for inferring the material properties of the TM are explored. First, constitutive modeling is used to estimate an elastic modulus based on the elastic modulus of collagen and experimentally observed fiber densities. Second, experimental tension and bending test results from the literature are re-interpreted using composite laminate theory. Lastly, dynamic measurements of the cat TM are used in conjunction with a composite shell model to bound the material parameters. Values from the literature, both measurement and modeling efforts, and from the present analysis are brought together to form a coherent picture of the TM's material properties. In the human, the data bound the elastic modulus between 0.1 and 0.3 GPa. In the cat, the data suggest a range of 0.1–0.4 GPa. These values are significantly higher than previous estimates.

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